Has the Wall Street Journal Become a Realtor.com Shill? Just wait for the Movie!
A Guest Article by Todd Flavio at Adaptive Consulting
We have all heard the phrase “real life is stranger than fiction”. The movie in the making is not just the outcome of Spitzer-Burnet and all the implications of other lawsuits, industry reform and the impact on the sacred 3% commission for Real Estate sides. The secondary plot will go deeper into media manipulation, conspiracy, and truth-seeking justice with the overlap of technology, media, and real estate. Let’s unpack this convoluted story and plot that is unfolding:
Spitzer vs. NAR: The National Association of Realtors (NAR) faced legal challenges from former New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and his colleagues, alleging anti-competitive practices and price fixing. The verdict? A mixed bag. While some charges were dismissed, the court upheld NAR’s requirement for MLS data to include brokers’ commission information. In addition to the Spitzer-Burnet case, the NAR has faced a number of other legal challenges in recent years. These include:
- Antitrust lawsuits: The NAR has been sued by the Department of Justice and several private companies for allegedly anti-competitive practices, such as its rules on commission sharing and buyer representation.
- Fair housing lawsuits: The NAR has been sued by fair housing groups for allegedly discriminatory practices, such as its opposition to affordable housing initiatives.
- Consumer protection lawsuits: The NAR has been sued by consumer groups for allegedly misleading consumers about the benefits of using a realtor.
The NAR has prevailed in some of these cases, but it has also lost some. The legal challenges have raised concerns about the NAR’s business practices and its impact on consumers
Enter the WSJ: The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) is a business-oriented newspaper that is owned by News Corp, the same company that owns Realtor.com. The WSJ has been criticized for its coverage of the real estate industry, which some have alleged is biased in favor of Realtor.com.
Now, let’s talk about the WSJ’s coverage of this saga. Instead of offering balanced reporting, the newspaper painted a stark picture of the real estate industry – a picture heavily favoring Realtor.com, another News Corp property.
Here’s how the bias played out:
- Framing the narrative: The headlines screamed “Realtors Conspire” and “Real Estate Cartel,” effectively demonizing the entire industry. This sensationalized language served to alienate readers and push a specific agenda.
- Cherry-picking facts: The WSJ selectively highlighted aspects of the verdict that supported their narrative, while conveniently ignoring key points that presented a more nuanced picture. For example, they downplayed the dismissal of major charges against NAR.
- Omission and misrepresentation: The WSJ failed to mention that the requirement for commission information benefits consumers by promoting transparency. Instead, they framed it as a power grab by NAR, ignoring its potential to empower buyers and sellers.
The Realtor.com Connection: The timing of this biased reporting is particularly curious. Just weeks after the verdict, Realtor.com launched a major campaign promoting their “no-fee” listings, implicitly contrasting themselves with the “cartel” of traditional realtors. This conveniently aligns with the WSJ’s narrative, raising concerns about a potential quid pro quo.
Further, homes.com CEO Andy Florance also points the finger at Realtor.com and its parent News Corp, criticizing their “cartel” narrative against NAR and realtors. “Though it claims to help consumers,” Florance quotes from a Wall Street Journal editorial by Allysia Finley, “it [NAR] is a cartel that seeks primarily to enrich its members…,” highlighting the biased portrayal. He urges realtors to see Homes.com as a true ally, offering “a better business model, a better user experience, and most importantly, a better experience for Realtors.”
What does this mean for real estate professionals?
- Media literacy is crucial. Don’t blindly accept the WSJ’s portrayal as gospel truth. Critically analyze the reporting, question their framing, and seek out diverse perspectives.
- Embrace transparency and consumer-centricity. The Spitzer verdict highlights the need for greater transparency in the industry. Real estate professionals should proactively embrace practices that benefit consumers, such as providing clear commission information and offering alternative fee structures.
- Leverage technology to your advantage. Tech solutions can help you differentiate yourself from the “cartel” image. Utilize innovative tools to offer personalized experiences, streamline processes, and demonstrate your value proposition.
- Advocate for fair and balanced reporting. Speak up against biased media coverage and demand responsible journalism. Support initiatives that promote factual and objective reporting in the real estate industry.
The Spitzer-Burnet case and the WSJ’s subsequent coverage are a wake-up call for the real estate industry. We must navigate these murky waters with caution, recognizing the potential for bias and misinformation. By prioritizing transparency, consumer-centricity, and technological innovation, we can ensure that the narrative around real estate remains fair, accurate, and reflects the diverse and dynamic nature of our profession.
Remember, we, the real estate professionals, hold the power to shape the narrative. Let’s use our voices and expertise to ensure that the future of real estate is one of transparency, innovation, and, most importantly, a fair playing field for all.
About Todd Flavio
With over three decades of experience in the mortgage, real estate, and technology industries, I’ve had the privilege of serving thousands of families and contributing to over $1B in financing. I am a consultant and work to pursue excellence by forging transformative partnerships using technology and innovation within our industries.